By: Kathy Smith, MSPA, CCC-SLP/L (retired)
AAC Spotlight is a series of interviews that we hope will be another resource. Reading about other people who are interested in AAC (augmentative-alternative communication) can help us connect with each other and share experiences and concerns. NWACS will occasionally interview people to help all of us learn more about each other and AAC.
In the Spotlight: Scott Palm, AAC User and owner of Palmtree Enterprises
Since 1980, Scott Palm and I have worked together in developing his communication systems. He has accomplished so much in so many ways since 1980! Recently, we spent an afternoon together recalling his long history using a variety of augmentative communication systems.
What are some of the communication systems you have used other than a word/alphabet board?
In 1971, I had a 300-word board made by Judy McDonald, speech-language pathologist. It was expanded to 3,000 words by a secretary at Pioneer Junior High in Wenatchee. In 1980, I received a Canon Communicator to take notes in class at Shoreline High. A Canon had a small alphabet keyboard and only a narrow ticker tape print out. Then a couple years later I received a Sharp Memowriter which was like a Canon but with standard calculator paper print out. Finally (I can’t remember the year) I got my first computerized system with voice output! It was called the Epson SpeechPac. The memory was stored in a tiny reel to reel tape. Since then I have owned Prentke Romich Company (PRC) equipment starting with a Touchtalker with voice output and Minspeak software. However, the voice was bad – people could not understand it! A few years later I received a huge box that attached to the back of my motorized wheelchair and plugged into the Touchtalker. That was my first DecTalk voice synthesizer. Now I was talking! Years later, I used a Liberator then a Pathfinder and presently an ECO2 with Unity software, computer access, and other capabilities; all were PRC products. The funding for all my electronic devices has been Medicaid and Medicare.
What has been your most preferred system and why?
I have to say it was the Liberator. It had built-in Dectalk speech output which was much better than the ECHO speech on the Touchtalker. It also had an onboard printer. Having a built-in printer is so handy! Also, the Liberator was so durable. It drowned in 2 Seattle rain storms and came back to life on its own.
What improvements or changes would you like have in your next AAC system?
I would like to have Microsoft Word editing tools such as spell check, grammar highlights, etc. and would like to see them expand Unity software with more features such as Minserts, which I used in the Liberator to embed phrases or sayings into a sentence. Also, I believe this generation of electronic AAC systems needs better cell phone access.
How has your AAC system helped you in your business?
Well, first my electronic AAC systems were vital for me when I went to college and helped me to obtain my AA degree, which was great preparation for business purposes. My business started gradually, first as a PRC Ambassador, then being invited to go to public schools around Puget Sound showing how I use my electronic AAC systems. I learned to use my AAC system for public speaking through those experiences. Now, I travel around the state doing presentations about the needs of people with disabilities using my computer and Power Point software. However, my AAC system is vital in my presentations to introduce myself and to describe the purpose of the meeting. I programmed this introduction in a ‘notebook’ in the ECO. Also, during my presentations I can efficiently answer questions using the Unity software in my ECO. There would be no business without my ECO!
Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to be interviewed (and walking down memory lane with me)!
* Read more about Scott in this profile on the AT/AAC enABLES website (Note: some of the information is dated).
You can read our other posts in our AAC Spotlight series by clicking HERE.
Do you have a suggestion of someone you would like to see us interview for AAC Spotlight? Let us know in a comment below or send us an email.